State prison lockdown: Hanna, Snyder, Goodman applaud DOC action

Action occurs after joint letter sent to governor

HARRISBURG, Aug. 29 – A trio of House Democrats at the forefront of calls for strengthened state prison security today applauded the Department of Corrections’ immediate lockdown of all its facilities, as called for in a joint letter they sent earlier in the day.

State Reps. Mike Hanna, Pam Snyder and Neal Goodman urged Gov. Tom Wolf to take the action, noting that the strong measure was needed in an “incredibly dangerous environment” where they’ve heard “firsthand from corrections officers how inmates feel they have free reign in our facilities.”

In addition to locking down all state prisons “immediately and indefinitely,” the DOC responded by closing all prison mailrooms to non-legal mail, suspending visits, holding training on situational awareness, and mandating use of gloves and other personal protective equipment for all employees.

The moves were hailed by Hanna, Snyder and Goodman, who between them are prime supporters of legislation calling for a review of prison safety and security, allowing corrections officers to carry Tasers, and requiring the DOC to ensure that no corrections officer is ever alone while on duty, except for emergencies.

“Collectively, our offices have received numerous phone calls and emails that have propelled the safety of DOC employees to the level of a number-one concern,” said Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre. “We’re pleased that upon receiving our request, the governor and DOC took swift action.”

Snyder, D-Greene/Fayette/Washington, was touring SCI Fayette to hear safety concerns when the lockdown order went into effect, as part of an unpublicized two-day tour with corrections officers and their union officials that also took her to SCI Greene on Tuesday.

“As an elected official who’s in constant contact with those who work at the two large state prisons in the 50th Legislative District, I am well aware of staff’s safety concerns,” Snyder said. “Recently, corrections officers at both of these facilities were sickened by some unknown substance. These prisons should remain on lockdown until the DOC gets to the bottom of what’s going on and can implement changes.”

Goodman, D-Schuykill, said: “Each of us has visited state prisons in our respective areas and talked to numerous people who work in those facilities. Their call for action became our call for action – and today’s lockdown and related moves are the first necessary steps in addressing what have become clear and present dangers to employee health and safety.”

In their letter, Hanna, Snyder and Goodman also requested a meeting with Wolf next week “regarding the lack of support corrections officers feel they are getting from the Department of Corrections, and the need to enforce discipline on inmates in order to restore order and deter criminal behavior.”